Effects of butterbur treatment in intermittent allergic rhinitis: a placebo-controlled evaluation

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Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) contains the active ingredient petasin, which exhibits antileukotriene and antihistamine activity. Previous studies of intermittent allergic rhinitis (IAR) have demonstrated a comparable response to butterbur compared with a histamine H1-receptor antagonist on the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey quality-of-life score. However, there has been no placebo-controlled study of the effects of butterbur use on objective and subjective outcomes in IAR.


To evaluate the effects of treatment with butterbur vs placebo on objective and subjective outcomes in IAR.


A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study was carried out during the grass pollen season in Tayside, Scotland. Thirty-five patients (14 men and 21 women) with IAR received butterbur, 50 mg twice daily, or placebo for 2 weeks. Domiciliary measurements were taken in the morning and evening for peak nasal inspiratory flow (PNIF) (the primary outcome variable), nasal and eye symptoms, and rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality-of-life score.


Butterbur treatment had no significant effect on PNIF, total nasal symptom score, eye symptom score, or quality of life compared with placebo use. Mean (SEM) morning and evening PNIF values were 107 (6) and 114 (6) L/min, respectively, for butterbur vs 105 (6) and 117 (6) L/min for placebo. Mean (SEM) morning and evening total nasal symptom scores (maximum total score, 12) were 3.4 (0.4) and 3.5 (0.4), respectively, for butterbur vs 3.7 (0.3) and 3.8 (0.4) for placebo.


There was no significant clinical efficacy of butterbur use vs placebo use on objective and subjective outcomes in IAR. Further studies are now indicated to investigate the use of butterbur in persistent allergic rhinitis.


Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2004;93:56-60.

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